McLaren Senna – a new niche?

McLaren Senna – a new niche?

McLaren SennaMcLaren’s new Ultimate Series vehicle is the most extreme McLaren road car yet – but what is it for and who is it aimed at?

McLaren have a pretty broad offering these days – sports cars, supercars, hypercars, track-only hypercars, race cars. What niche could they possibly fill now? With the Senna, it looks like they might have actually found a new one.

The Senna in numbers

  • £2,000,000 – the price paid for the last remaining car at auction
  • £750,000 – the list price
  • 1198 kg dry weight
  • 789 bhp
  • 659 bhp per ton
  • 500 unit production run
  • 0 – the number of cars remaining unsold.

What McLaren say about the Senna.

“Legalised for road use, but not sanitised to suit it, the new Ultimate Series deliberately compromises McLaren’s trademark breadth of supercar daily usability; instead it provides the purest connection between driver and car, to deliver the most intense circuit experience of any road McLaren.” Translation – track special that you can drive to the circuit.

“The brief was quite clear on this car, to make it as fast as we can around a track, but still road legal. It’s our fastest car, comparable to a P1 around a lap.” Andy Palmer, Vehicle Line Director, McLaren Ultimate Series

What is it?

It is essentially a McLaren 720S redesigned by engineers to deliver the fastest possible lap times – in McLaren’s words, the “aggressive appearance epitomises ‘form-follows-function’ McLaren design philosophy”. In other words – forget aesthetics, this thing needs to go fast. The looks will certainly divide opinion – we’ll need to wait for the first road tests before we know how good it is as a road car but McLaren’s focus on making it the ultimate track car inevitably means that its road-going capability will be compromised. Named with the blessing of Ayrton Senna’s family and developed with the assistance of his nephew Bruno Senna, the car has a lot to live up to.

Power-to-weight

At 1,198kg dry the Senna is the lightest McLaren road car since the iconic McLaren F1.  With a power to weight ratio of 659 bhp per ton, it beats the McLaren P1 (647 bhp/ton) the Bugatti Veyron Supersport (644 bhp/ton) and even the McLaren F1 LM (631 bhp/ton). To put it in perspective, the Lamborghini Aventador SV has a meagre 485 bhp/ton. McLaren hasn’t yet released performance figures, but it is going to be very, very fast.

Specification

4.0 twin-turbo V8

Mid-engined

RWD

7-speed dual-clutch gearbox

Race-derived suspension – RaceActive Chassis Control II (RCC II) hydraulic suspension

Ultra-lightweight construction based on a modified version of the 720S’ Monocage III chassis

Bodywork  100% carbon fibre

Electro-hydraulic steering

[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBTBlt3pLVo” /]

Downforce

With a rear wing that size, McLaren’s intentions are abundantly clear.

The Senna introduces a new generation of front and rear active aerodynamics, raising downforce and aero control to ensure the performance potential can be fully exploited. Every element of the body design, from the front splitter to the double diffuser at the rear, has been developed to optimise downforce and aerodynamic balance according to McLaren. Quite how much downforce it will generate is unknown, but it is believed that the Senna will generate more downforce than the P1

Ground Effect

The double rear diffuser begins under the rear axle and as it increases in height accelerates air out from under the vehicle. This creates a low-pressure zone that sucks the McLaren Senna even tighter to the ground. The double-element carbon fibre rear wing constantly adjusts to optimise the levels of downforce and aerodynamic balance and functions as an airbrake under heavy braking.

Cockpit

In the cockpit, driver controls have been deliberately kept to a minimum to reduce ‘cockpit clutter’ and the three-spoke steering wheel is free of buttons and switches. The door release and ignition switches are housed in a console in the roof and storage space is restricted to a chamber behind the seats integral with just enough room for two helmets and race suits.

A race car for the road

That old chestnut. McLaren isn’t claiming the Senna fits that bill, but it looks like it might. If you were wondering if there is a market for a £750,000 track day special, McLaren’s customer base has answered with a resounding Yes – all the cars were spoken for before the Senna was revealed to the public.

If McLaren has indeed been able to combine the pace and the visceral experience of driving a race car in a road going production car with some degree of the practicality their other cars offer, then they have a winning formula. The 30 or so McLaren P1 GTRs built were only made available to existing P1 owners, and £2 million bought you a track-only car that could be converted for road use by Lanzante Motorsport – cost unknown. That makes the Senna look like pretty good value for money, especially if you were unable to get hold of a new P1.

A Lanzante-modified McLaren P1 currently holds the unofficial Nurburgring lap record for a non-series production road car at 6:43:22. McLaren is notoriously cagey about releasing ‘Ring lap times for their vehicles, but it will be interesting to see how close a Senna can get to that benchmark, in McLaren’s hands or otherwise.

McLaren have managed to create a new niche with an exciting and collectable car – expect to see other manufacturers follow suit.

Deliveries start Q3 2018.

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Images courtesy of McLaren Automotive.